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Do Traditional Leadership Styles Still Work in Accounting?

Posted on 25th July 2018 by Parker Bridge

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There is no denying that our workplaces are changing. Today, we have the most generationally diverse workforce the world has ever seen. As each generation bring their own motivators, needs and preferences to how they want to work and collaborate, this diversity carries its own challenges for managers to overcome. However, do traditional leadership styles still work in this ever-changing environment or do managers need to invest in new and disruptive ways to lead their teams and businesses?

What Are The Benefits and Weaknesses of Traditional Leadership?

Traditional leadership, or otherwise known as ‘Authoritative/Directive Leadership’, is a management structure you have likely come across before in your own career. It has been around for decades and it has served many businesses well. Before we can understand whether traditional leadership still has a place in modern accounting workforces, let’s first look at its benefits and weaknesses:


If you are a small business owner with a lot of industry experience and skill, you are in a great position to use an Authoritative Management style to direct, instruct and grow your inexperienced employees. The main issue with this style though is that it is not scalable. As your business or team grows, you will find it harder to hold authoritative control over everyone. In addition, you’ll naturally start employing people who possess different skills, experiences and thinking to your own, and this traditional leadership style can stop these people from reaching their full potential and even cause them to look for work elsewhere. So, as your business grows, you may need to open the door to other ways of leading to innovate and grow your company further.

What Other Leadership Styles Are There?

The methodology of leadership has evolved significantly in recent years and there are several different ways to motivate, lead and develop your employees. It is important to note that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ method to leading staff just does not work in a diverse workforce. So, we have found four popular management styles (in no particular order) to help you make your own decision on how to adapt your leadership method.

Four Alternative Leadership Styles for Accounting Teams

Transformational Management

Transformational Management focuses on helping businesses get and stay ahead of the curve. It is particularly useful when an industry or company is facing significant disruption as the leadership method focuses on adopting innovative thinking and embracing change. Here are the benefits and weaknesses of Transformational Management:

Servant Leadership

The concept of Servant Leadership is simple: ‘leaders serve not only their  customers,  but their employees as well.’ It is popular with businesses of all sizes and reported to be used by companies such as Starbucks, Marriott International (Hotels) and many more. Here are the benefits and weaknesses of servant leadership:

Autonomous Management

In essence, Autonomous Management is the opposite of micromanagement and is entirely based on trust and professionalism. It doesn’t rely on metrics or project plans to get the job done but rather on each employee to manage their own workload and performance. It works particularly well for organisations with licensed professionals or highly skilled experts (such as chartered accountancy firms) who don’t necessarily need ‘managing’. The benefits and weaknesses of Autonomous Management are:

Collaborative Leadership


Collaborative Leadership is great for managers who want to retain decision-making authority but still enable their employees to provide their own opinion and ideas on how things should be done. To do that, leaders invite their staff to participate by sharing their ideas, concerns, suggestions and solutions irrespective of their position or experience. Here are the benefits and weaknesses of Collaborative Leadership:


As our workplaces become more diverse, managers will need to adapt their leadership style to suit the unique situations they face throughout their careers. It is doubtful that you will get by using just one leadership style so it is important to leverage as many traits as you can from several methods so that you are as adaptable as possible.

We hope the above guide has given you a great place to start when researching other types of leadership styles.

If your team has been under a lot of pressure lately or you have been struggling to fill a vital role, we are here to help. Get in touch with one of our expert Consultants to find out how.